Alumni Profile: Robert Ingino
When Robert Ingino, BEng’18, is tackling a stubborn challenge he thinks back to his award-winning capstone project in the Space Engineering program at York University’s Lassonde School of Engineering.
Working with the CNIB Foundation, he and his group pioneered a virtual reality experience to help children who are blind or living with sight loss learn how to navigate the classroom.
“We tested it with parents and their children,” Ingino remembers. “One parent put on the virtual reality headset and suddenly realized what sight loss felt like for their kid.” At that moment, Ingino realized that the team’s discovery was about much more than “accessibility tech.”
“We were helping people understand and relate to each other and their world. It was uplifting.”
That experience remains Ingino’s inspiration today as the CEO of SenseTech Solutions, the company he founded in 2018 with fellow Lassonde grad, Ali Raza Syed. Building on their fourth-year research project, Ingino and Syed are using extended reality to improve accessibility for people with sensory difficulties.
One project, in partnership with ECampus Ontario and Ontario Tech University, involved the creation of a simulation technology to help teach students with visual impairments about human anatomy. “We placed MRI scans of healthy and unhealthy lungs inside an interactive, 3D space with sound effects of healthy and laboured breathing and audio tags describing the different parts of the lung,” explains Ingino. In the virtual reality version of the application, users can even reach out and touch the lung using a haptic glove.
The Lassonde grads have also reunited with CNIB to help boost the confidence of visually-impaired job seekers. Together, they designed an application that simulates everything from the corporate boardroom to the interview team, allowing people with low or no sight a safe place to practice their interview skills.
The software platform was named a runner-up in the 2021 MaRS and CIBC Inclusive Design Challenge.
SenseTech is also part of a committee tasked with establishing the accessibility standards for virtual reality, augmented reality, and immersive environments on behalf of the federal government.
“We didn’t just learn about rockets at Lassonde,” says Ingino. In fact, he says, his space engineering studies have everything to do with his success as an inventor and entrepreneur.
“I learned a bit of everything at Lassonde—how to take a problem, break it up into steps and identify the parts I can solve and where I need to ask for help. I learned the fundamentals of engineering and how to apply them to real life.”
Instead of chasing the next frontier in space, he’s using virtual reality to change lives on Earth—without a backward glance.
“I wouldn’t trade what we’re doing for the world,” he says.